Japan tries to improve tourists’ access to SIM cards, Wi-Fi

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The government kicked off a campaign Monday to give tourists access to SIM cards and Wi-Fi routers, aiming to offer a better quality communications environment.

The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) said that while the government has been working to spread free Wi-Fi availability for international travelers, it isn’t possible to provide blanket coverage nationwide.

Yet Japan has high quality mobile communications networks all across the country, and this is something tourists can take advantage of, officials said.

Yuri Furusawa, a senior JTA official, said a recent survey by the agency suggests that many tourists from overseas who had intended to buy SIM cards after arriving in Japan were apparently unable to do so.

The survey found that 28.6 percent of 6,971 travelers had planned to purchase SIM cards, but only 13.2 percent actually did.

“We asked (travelers) what tools they had planned to use (for mobile Internet access) and what they actually used, and found that the largest gap was in SIM cards,” Furusawa said.

With more tourists coming to Japan, many firms are now trying to provide them with prepaid SIM cards, but their availability not be widely known among travelers yet.

The agency said it is launching a one-month campaign to help travelers buy SIM cards or rent Wi-Fi routers.

The campaign includes setting up special booths at Narita International Airport, having popular bloggers write about their experiences using SIM cards, and advertising in magazines in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Also, on its website, the Japan National Tourism Organization shows about 800 designated locations, such as airports, electronics stores and convenience stores, where travelers can buy SIM cards.

The agency is teaming up with 11 SIM card and Wi-Fi router providers to promote the campaign.

For more information, visit www.jnto.go.jp/mobiletips.